Chair of Legal Sevices Consumer Panel calls for firms to publish average prices

The Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel says publishing average prices could be “the catalyst needed for consumers to make detailed enquiries about cost.”

Writing on the Panel’s website the chair says the publication of such information could help bring down complaints to the Legal Ombudsman with costs issues making up 26% of those escalated

Elisabeth Davies wrote: “This week the Panel published our sixth annual tracker survey. It shows that just one in four consumers are shopping around before procuring legal services. What particularly concerns us is how this figure has not changed over the last four years.The pace of change is sluggish, partly because consumers don’t have the information they need to be active participants in the market.

“This isn’t surprising when you consider that only 17% of providers advertise their price, according to recent LSB research. Since we published our report on open data we’ve heard numerous arguments against price transparency and we’ve heard about the challenges of pricing legal services. Our tracker survey continues to show that fixed fees are on the increase, because this is what consumers want. We know fixed fees cannot be offered in all cases, but shouldn’t providers of services be able to give clients a range of prices, using previous experience and professional expertise to cost appropriately?”

She continued: “Information provision may not start out perfectly. We have to be pragmatic. We recognise that it won’t be feasible to publish prices in the same way for every area of law. And we accept that the average cost is not an indicator of actual price. But it’s a start and it could be the catalyst needed for consumers to make detailed enquiries about cost.

“There’s a broader context to this too. Of all the complaints that are escalated to the Legal Ombudsman, 26% are about costs issues. Plus, we know that the perception of high cost acts as a barrier to accessing legal advice. According to the LSB’s recent legal needs survey, 10% of consumers fail to seek legal advice because of their perception of high cost.”

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